There are some common questions that most of the seekers want to ask. The following questions are often asked during the Z Meditation Retreats. You are aware that the retreats are conducted in silence. Students need to write their questions and forward them to the teachers. The Question / Answer session takes place toward the end of each day.
Q. Why meditation?
A. To become mindful, peaceful, blissful and loveful. To experience the inner joy of freedom. To know the Self.
Q. I am quite conscious of myself. I can do investigation when I am agitated. What is so unique about meditation?
A. Becoming conscious in this manner is the first step. The more important step is to be conscious of the perspective that leads to agitation. Are you aware of your perspectives?
Q. What do you mean by that?
A. Does your happiness come from within you or from outside—from yourself or from people and situations?
Q. It comes from within me, I know. But when I am agitated, I think that it is due to external factors. What does that mean?
A. It means that the understanding is there, but it is not deep enough. It needs to be integrated.
Q. How do you do that?
A. By meditation. Meditation means correcting your wrong perspective and applying the truth to your real life. Please understand that it is not just a routine tool that you may use when you are in distress. It is your life—straightening your priorities; removing the illusions; finding the truth; living in equanimity and inner joy. Does it appeal to you?
Q. I never knew that it was due to involuntary thoughts that I was not able to meditate. Please tell me what is the right attitude to meditation?
A. It is so beautiful that you have realized that your own mind creates obstacles. They don’t come from outside. In order to realize the state of stable blissful awareness, all the holes in the mind need to be plugged. The dependence is the biggest hole. You need to be ruthless in the practice as you will see that your mind will play tricks and try to deceive you in many ways.
Keep in mind these four important points:
- Courage in the wake of all adverse opinions. Others may not understand you; it’s OK. You have to understand them and not try to impose your views on them.
- Indifference to your agitations borne out of false notions. Sincere desire to drop the cherished stories. Let yourself not get duped by your own mind. It is still like a young sapling. You will also need to protect cautiously.
- Keep the flame of love for yourself alive even if you fail once in a while.
- Regular and systematic practice. Go on working on yourself until living in your divine nature becomes natural and effortless for you.
Q. I understand the whole process, but it looks like a very difficult task.
A. Take your steps. Just do it. Your desire to climb a big mountain can be fulfilled only by taking steps—one by one. You must start doing the practice diligently and regularly.
Q. What do you say of people who are already very loving and considerate to others? Why should they meditate?
A. Are they peaceful also? Do they have equanimity, whatever the situation? Do they experience inner fulfillment or they still live in the illusion that happiness and completeness come from outside?
Compassionate state is only the fourth state on the ladder of evolution. My experience is that it is a lovely state to be in, but it is not the end of the game. It is rather the beginning of spirituality.
Most of the students who get interested in meditation retreats belong to the compassionate state of being. They are wonderful people, but restless. They suffer due to various illusions of understanding. They need to get a good grounding in the right understanding to have a peaceful mind.
Q. If one has a clear direction about dharma, should one meditate even then?
A. You are still concentrating on the externals. You are still believing that happiness comes from outside. This is wrong thinking.
Knowing one’s dharma in this sense only means that you understand what ought to be your calling or vocation. That is a necessary step. You will be comparatively happy going to your work place. You will have less disturbing thoughts at least on this account.
Is that the end of life? Are you living just for doing a certain work? Have you realized lasting fulfillment and is your mind peaceful? If yes, you don’t need to meditate. If no, you still need to remove the illusions of understanding and realize the inner bliss. How is that possible without meditation?
Q. If one has to go beyond thinking, why do you put so much emphasis on thinking?
A. If you look at the ladder of evolution, you will see that most of the people in the world are still hovering around sensuality and lethargy. That is, their minds are extremely agitated or confused. There are a few who are creative and some are compassionate also.
As you climb the ladder, the mind gets less and less chaotic. But chaos cannot be completely removed without removing the illusions. The happiness-coming-from-outside is the basic misunderstanding. Unless you remove it, there is no possibility that your mind will attain peace as it will keep projecting the related agitations.
How will you remove your involuntary dreaming without removing the illusions of understanding? How can you remove illusions without contemplating deeply on the nature of reality? And this is what meditation is all about.
If you want to remove a thorn from your finger, you need another thorn to take out the first one. Later on, you throw away both of them. When contemplation will become very deep and will get integrated into your veins and arteries, you will be naturally restful and blissful. There will not be much thinking required then. Until then, it is imperative.
Please understand that I am encouraging you to do contemplation right now. It will help in removing the thorns of wrong understanding. It will naturally develop into effortless meditation when you attain maturity. I am not able to agree with those who propound the practice of mindlessness or thoughtlessness in the beginning itself. It is not possible to do that for the beginners. The higher mind needs to be used to gobble the lower mind. Using the right understanding, one removes the wrong understanding.
Q. I am a marathon runner. The state of bliss that you are talking about is attained in long-distance running also. How is it different from meditation?
A. Relief or Cure—what the requirement? It is true that you can attain relief from your mind by running or by doing yogic postures or by some breathing exercises. But your perspective does not change thereby. The wrong beliefs still remain active in the background. In your computer, there are so many programs that run in the background, e.g., the virus-removal programs. You might not be aware that they are active in your computer, but they keep doing their jobs. Similarly, there are programs that keep running in the background of the mind. You don’t become aware of them unless you turn your gaze toward them.
If these mental programs are based on wrong notions, they will give you a lot of pain eventually. Even when they are not giving you pain, they do result in excessive restlessness. You cannot remove this state of being just by running a marathon. You will have to bring about corrections in your thinking process.
Moreover, how long can you run? What after that? We have devised countless ways to delay facing ourselves! We watch TV now, we go for a picnic now; our week days are filled with activities and our weekends are also. If we have nothing to do, we get bored and look for avenues so that we may not have to face ourselves. Please understand that nothing external will give lasting happiness. It is impossible!
The question is what do you want—a relief or a cure?
Q. Do you think that in the hectic western world, it is possible to attain lasting peace of mind?
A. It is in this hectic world that I see more opportunity of attaining peace. If you observe closely, you will see many openings. There are so many people here who are now saturated with sensual living. There are communities catering to the growth of compassion. People love helping others in need. Moreover, there is a strongly growing demand for self growth and spirituality. Don’t you see how many millions of such books are read by people here? It is a marvelous revolution of understanding that is happening here. I can see that in the next step of evolution, there is going to be more and more desire to realize the inner bliss. If not here, then where?
Q. Don’t you think that it is difficult to meditate in such a frenzied living?
A. I am hearing that you are asking the question about yourself.
It is no doubt difficult, but who will sort things out for you? Who will do the prioritization for you? Think of the person at a sea shore waiting for all the waves to end so that he can take a plunge in the waters. Is it ever possible? First of all, decide what do you want in your life?
If an angel appears to you now and gives you one boon, what will ask for? Why? Do you want to be in command of your life? Do you want freedom more than anything else? If yes, you will not be asking this question again. You will get going on this path of inner fulfillment and bliss.
Q. What about creativity? Stopping the dreams will affect creativity and intuitions, isn’t it?
A. The flow of creativity needs to be differentiated from chaotic agitations of the mind. When the mind is restful, there is not only better concentration on the job at hand, there is also a better possibility for the flow of creative and intuitive thoughts. The more the chaos, the less this possibility.
All great creative works were created by focused minds and not by chaotic and confused minds.
Q. How about planning and learning from your past mistakes? Is that not the same as living in the future or past?
A. Here also, understand the difference between conscious voluntary thinking and unconscious involuntary thoughting. Thinking is very different from running in circles. The former is to be encouraged as it gives you a direction and it helps you grow. The latter is futile in every sense. It just dissipates your energies.
Conscious thinking about past and future is actually necessary for most of us as it helps in giving the life a positive direction. It helps in keeping one fruitfully busy. Otherwise, there can creep in some lethargy. It has happened with many paratitioners. Be careful.
Q. Does meditation help in bringing about big decisions?
A. The indecisiveness is due to the agitations of the mind. It happens when you are confused about a certain issue. You are not able to weigh the pros and cons clearly. It results in a glut of unmanageable involuntary dreams that hamper the exercise of volition. With meditation, you will bring in strength with the removal of chaos, dilemmas and confusion. You will certainly be able to arrive at clear decisions.
Q. Going to meditation and facing oneself is scary. I don’t want to do that. Is it not better to keep living in darkness?
A. You can of course do that. Nobody can stop you from running away from yourself. But why do you want to do that? I don’t think it serves any purpose at all.
What I am hearing from your question is that you don’t want to confront the truth that you need to be independent of your sweet crutches—your attachments. You like the illusion that others will make you happy. You dislike any tinkering with your imaginary cocoons.
Pigeons close their eyes when they face cats pouncing on them. They are too scared to face the reality. But closing the eyes will not solve the problem of big cats all around. The biggest ones are living inside you. Where can you run away from them?
Unless the right understanding dawns, the fears cannot be truly overcome. Face your fears. They are just thoughtless stories. If you want happiness in your life—and I am seeing that there is severe dearth of it right now—you will have to confront both your problems and yourself. Running away or shoving things under the carpet is never a solution.
Q. When you talk of controlling the mind, do you mean it as a way of life?
A. Yes. How can you know a certain truth in your meditation and forget it completely when you get up from the seat of meditation?
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Q. I am studying for my degree. How do I apply these concepts?
A. When you study, do the thoughts about future haunt you—‘will I get good grades?’, ‘will I get a good job?’ and similar thoughts about your future?
Q. Yes, all the time. But that is natural.
A. Yes, in a way. Don’t you think that you have a fixed amount of mental energy and a lot of it gets wasted in futile daydreaming like that? Imagine putting yourself wholeheartedly into the present moment and studying. Will not your concentration be better and therefore your grades also?
Involuntary dreams don’t take you anywhere. You just fritter away your energies and become unhappy also. Your efficiency suffers at the same time. Is it a happy state of being?
Q. But the thoughts of the fruits come on their own.
A. That is fine. Don’t worry about what you don’t create deliberately. You just do your conscious work on removing the wrong notions from your mind. Gradually, this restlessness will fade away on its own.
Secondly, having dreams of fruits does not ensure their materialization in any way. But if you have a restful frame of mind and better concentration, there is a healthy possibility that you will be able to achieve them.
Q. How do I know which state of consciousness I am in?
A. Find out your X factors. When you try to meditate, what kind of dreams do you get?
If your dependence is on gossiping, alcohol, drugs, TV etc. and if you do not mind procrastinating, blaming, criticizing and irresponsible living, you may be in the lethargic state of consciousness. If however, you are driven by money, sex and status, you may be in the sensual state. If you get enchanted by creativity, it is creative state. If, on the other hand, you feel for beings and want to help them come out of their suffering, it is the state of compassion. If you like meditating and are working to attain a state of unconditioned happiness and love, you may be in the state of introspection. When you reach the last two states, all objects of dependence are dropped and you are naturally staying in the eternal blissful awareness as this is realized to be your true identity.
Q. But I find myself oscillating between the first five. What should I do?
A. That is beautiful. You have all the potential for freedom, ready to be realized. Try to spend more and more of your conscious time in the states of introspection and compassion. You will need to work for that as the pull of the senses and lethargy are still there. It is like working against gravity. With consistent and systematic practice, you will be able to stay in peaceful awareness effortlessly.
Q. I worry a lot and I think you cannot avoid certain worries like when your child is sick.
A. I think it is not the sickness of the child that gives you worry; it is rather the sickness of your child that causes worry. Nature has created the notion of possession and the consequent suffering associated with it. Nature has also created the possibility of understanding that all notions are transitory mental formations. It is very much achievable to live in the state of pure awareness and desireless love at the same time. The question is whether you want to do that…and whether you are ready for that state of pure being.
Q. I think I want to reach there, but it appears to be difficult. I love my child….Can you please tell me the difference between love and attachment?
A. When you love free from expectations, it is love at its best—love just for its own sake. When there are expectations, it is attachment and it causes suffering in the long run. I am not saying that attachment is bad or wrong. I think it is also a wonderful feeling. The love of a mother for her child—wow! I wish I had an iota of that love in my heart. It is amazing for me; it is brilliant. But the only cause of alarm is that most mothers in this world are unhappy. Can we do something about it? I think, yes. Mothers can, for sure, learn to love and serve in freedom. It is just a matter of fixing the gaze on this goal and doing deep contemplation to achieve it.
Q. I am a manager in an aviation company in England. I have learnt that if you don’t worry, you cannot do your job with passion.
A. What they have taught you is that unless you are whipped, you cannot work—you always need the flogging of desires, goals and achievements to get going. Actually, it is true! Yes, for most people in the world, it is true.
However for those, who have set their goal straight for peace and love, it can be counter-productive. You cannot become a worried free man. It is absurd. For you, the requirement is to work with awareness, happiness and love in your heart—doing everything with enjoyment, as if it is the last day of your life.
I also think that your productivity increases as you attain balance of mind. When there is less dissipation of mental energies, you will churn out better work. That is, you can become a happy and more efficient worker. Your decision making abilities are also honed when there is enjoyment and freedom in the heart. It does not remain a routine job for you anymore.
I am also not in favor of sacrificing deserving individuals for the sake of organizations. Their (individuals’ ) priorities are different and they need to be encouraged to follow what is best suited for their inner growth. In this way, they will be able to serve the organizations better.
Q. I met a girl a few days before coming to the retreat. We sat together for sometime in a room. We felt that both of us were gods and were transferring energy to each other. This girl has a boyfriend, but I think that she is now attracted toward me. I am in a dilemma. I am not able to concentrate in meditation. What should I do?
A. Let go.
Some of us have a strange habit of divinizing things in order to justify them. What I can clearly see in this case is the mental monkeys playing their antics. Come back to the basics—she cannot give you lasting fulfillment and you also cannot give her the same. The whole thing might end up in remorse and quarrels.
Secondly, Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do to you. I am sure you don’t like getting cheated?
Q. Who likes?
A. Apply the same standards to yourself that you apply to others.
Q. But there are certain things that give satisfaction.
A. The problem of the world is this ‘but’. You know a certain thing to be true, but you don’t want to apply it—your desires come in the way.
Your need is to learn how to balance your feelings with right understanding. This world will become a very chaotic place if everybody just follows his desires without considering the effects.
I know that long-term perspective must be taken into account always—if you don’t want to suffer later on.
Please understand that what gives you satisfaction today may become a problem tomorrow. Your solutions turn into troubles in due course.
Q. Without desires and their fulfillment, I don’t understand the concept of happiness.
A. You want to say that having desires and then fulfilling them give you a sense of fulfillment.
A. Is it desiring that gives fulfillment?
Q. The desires keep me going and their fulfillment gives me fulfillment.
A. Which means that you feel unfulfilled without the fulfillment of desires. Suppose you have one hundred years to live. How much time do you think you would give to desiring and working for their fulfillment and how much to the enjoyment of fulfillment?
Q. I think most of my time is spent in working and chasing. I understand what you want to point at.
A. What I am asking is why can’t you start from non-desiring? When you believe that you must desire in order to get fulfilled and happy, you are unconsciously accepting that your fulfillment will come from objects external. It cannot. It never does come from anywhere. You have just created an imaginary void within yourself and now you want to get rid of it. You first make yourself believe that there is a void and you are conditioned to fill it up using temporary external means. Even when your desires get fulfilled, you still remain unfulfilled because this illusion of first unfulfillment and then fulfillment is still active in you. It will make you chase something else. It goes on until you pass away one day.
Q. Do you want us to become monks?
A. Yes and no. It depends on how you define a monk. If a monk is one who lives by right understanding, yes. If a monk is one who lives in a forest or a monastery, no.
I understand you believe in the illusion that your happiness is dependent upon others. I am only saying that you think about it deeply and if, even after that, your belief is sustained, go on living the way you have been living. Just learn to think. Don’t believe in what others make you think.
Q. I may be wrong, but I also feel that I will become like a cabbage if I follow you.
A. Well, how do you define a cabbage?
Q. It does not feel. It cannot love.
A. Do you think a Buddha does not love? I will repeat here that you need to do deep thinking. When you achieve inner fulfillment and freedom, how will you spend your time? You can never become callous. Your whole being will be full of love. You will of course be free from desires and expectations. There will be no heart breaks for you.
I only ask you to question your beliefs. If you do it in the right spirit, you will be free from suffering, that is for sure. It cannot be that you live in harmony with truth and be unhappy also. It cannot be that you live free from illusions and live like a cabbage. You will be a source of love and peace for whosoever comes in contact with you.
When you meditate, you learn to sublimate your feelings. You move from desiring to accepting; from attachment to love; from greed to contentment. You grow toward peace and freedom.
Q. Are all desires bad?
A. Desires are desires. The consequences are painful. You need to decide what is good and bad for you. These are relative terms. If being happy and fulfilled is good for you, desiring will not be helpful.
Q. I just want good concentration. Raising the level of consciousness is not what I want. I want to have desires.
A. That is perfect for you. Please do the ‘This Moment. Mindful Moment.’ exercise with the breath. It will be helpful.
Q. I also think that you are brainwashing our minds.
A. You are right. I am washing the brains of wrong notions. Is it something bad I am doing, in your view?
Q. Well, we need to think on our own.
A. Precisely. This is what I am also asking you to do. Don’t follow anyone else; just your heart. I am only teaching you how to ask your heart and how to find out what is hidden inside you. I am not here to tell you the answers of the deep inquiry. That is what you need to do on your own.
I want that you be objective in your thinking and hence in answering the questions. Drop all your previous stories and then answer the questions from your heart. In my view ‘thinking on one’s own’ means objective thinking and not biased thinking.
Please understand that I only want you to blossom. I have nothing personal to gain from the work. It is for your good that you need to do it.
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